Indigenous Peoples and the PalestiniansFrom Solidarity to Mutual Struggles

“We’ll emerge from the flower of the grave.
We’ll lean out of the poplar’s leaves
of all that besieges you, O white man,
of all the dead who are still dying,
both those who live and those
who return to tell the tale.
Let’s give the earth enough time to tell
the whole truth about your and us.
The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you”.

Mahmoud Darwish, “The ‘Red Indian’s’ Penultimate Speech to the White Man”[1]

Perhaps there is no better way to begin this essay than with “The Penultimate Speech of the ‘Red Indian’ to the White Man”, which is Mahmoud Darwish’s iconic and epic poem. His piece is only one of many examples that link between the Palestinian resistance and Indigenous struggles through writing. While history never stops recording the heroics of the victor, there are also those who do justice to the vanquished by retrieving stories in poetry, novels, and literature. Sameeh Mas’oud, a Palestinian poet, writer, and researcher, retrieves his “Palestinianity” in a novel titled Hoshelaga,[2] which narrates Palestine through a Native American main character. Likewise, the Palestinian researcher Munir al-Akash seemed to reapproach both peoples in his book titled A Palestinian State for the Indians.[3]

As a Palestinian whose family was uprooted from their land in the village of occupied Barbara back in 1948, I find these analogies tangible. Despite my refusal to any kind of soliciting sympathy while writing about mutual struggles and sorrows, I believe that these writings can still represent an alarming threat to settler colonial powers whose legitimacies are easily threatened in the age of increasing interconnectedness.

When solidarity is confined to theory and academic discourse, it implies that it is more of an act of retrieving the looted past and crying over the ruins in the sense that they do not seem up to an action, by anticipating a similar fate and posing warning, regardless of how considerably important it is to raising awareness and keeping the truth alive. In practice, there has been a great deal of effort to connect the various griefs of Indigenous people across the globe, to find a shared ground, and to shape a shared future of resistance. It is very important to expose solidarity initiatives that engage various frameworks of anti-colonial struggles and efforts that aim to provide practical support to Indigenous struggles. It is also important to share these efforts with those interested in knowing the truth and who have the intention to engage with these initiatives for the good names to whom we owe respect, love, and gratitude. This article aims to present the various experiences of solidarity mainly from Australia and the United States, with the Palestinians, in order to identify the mechanisms of resistance, and examine how to form solidarity with peoples who share the same suffering. The article aims to highlight acts of solidarity that have advanced to become a collective struggle against settler colonial symbolism and actions,

From Australia and the United States towards Palestine

In an interview with Bundjalung woman and human rights activist, Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts explained that both Australia and Palestine are two countries throughout the world that were subjected to the destruction of the land and the only countries that were classified as terra nullius—“land without a people”. The case of Palestinians, she demonstrated, is very close to what happened to First Nations in Australia. They both struggled against the expropriation of their land, colonialism, and imperialism .[4]

Moreover, Melissa Sue, member of The Red Nation—an organization that includes students, academics, Indigenous workers that works towards and defends Indigenous life and their land in the so-called “United States”—said that just as First Nations under the occupation of the United States suffered from many atrocities resulting from settler colonialism and mass incarceration of Indigenous youth, Palestinians also lived the same suffering. For the Red Nation, standing in solidarity with Palestine is obliged, as is continuing to do the work of exposing what settler empires are doing of committing genocide against people in the United States and Palestine.[5] Sue pledged the movement’s commitment to Palestinian liberation by supporting the Palestinian right of return BDS, showing solidarity to Palestinians in the diaspora, and supporting Palestinian resistance in any and all forms.[6]

Palestinian movements forged deep ties with Indigenous groups beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, such as the Puerto Rican national liberation cause, the American Indian movement, the Black Power movement, as well as movements that were committed to end apartheid in South Africa.[7] These relationships continued following the process of Oslo. But due to the unstable nature of these groups, the relationships tended to be less organized. Many Palestinian figures, such as the Professor of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University Rabab Abdel-Hadi, have been working hard against the neoliberal turns in solidarity with Palestine in order to spread political awareness among the children of the new generation about the historical transnational legacy of the common struggle in the Third World.[8] Indeed, Abdel-Hadi led an Indigenous and Women of Colour delegation to Palestine in 2011 so that those in the struggle could witness the conditions under which Palestinians are struggling against Israel, against ethnic cleansing and under apartheid. These women have been working to endorse and support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in their practice.[9]

In Latin America, Palestinian and Indigenous organizations have begun a reciprocal support since the mid-2000s, and precisely after the second intifada of 2000, by regularly organising joint events, such as protests, festivals, events, and exhibitions. In Chile and Bolivia, many events took place and contributed to crafting social networks among both nations. In Chile, the rapper Anita Tijoux and the Palestinian Shadia Mansour released a single 2014 titled “Somos Sur” (We Are South), which called for independent statehood.[10] Both singers believe that both of their nations are fighting against the “same patrons of violence who have repeated themselves throughout history”.[11] In Bolivia, the election of Evo Morales in 2006, who was the first Indigenous president in the country, helped to increase support for Palestine at grassroot and international levels .[12]

Diné, Mohawk, and the Palestinians: Resistance as a Bridge of Solidarity

Diné Solidarity With Palestine (DSWP) also represents one great effort of the solidarity of the Navajo people in Diné Bikéyah (Navajo Nation) with the Palestinians. DSWP, as stated by Melanie K. Yazzie, seeks to “mobilize collaborations that address and resist the violence of settler colonialism by organising directly with Native people and connecting Diné and other Native folks with Palestinians”.[13] The seeds of this movement were planted in the spring of 2015, when its co-founders convened in the twentieth Navajo Studies Conference for discussions with Diné people, leaders, and scholars. They named their panel Resisting Occupation and Building Solidarity: The Growing Diné-Palestine Connection. The movement believes that liberating Indigenous Nations in the United States pours into liberating the Palestinians as well, and that both Nations are mutually bounded. DSWP works to bridging Indigenous struggles and direct them towards liberating the Palestinians, whether the Dine struggles, Apache, Hopi, and Oádham, through various forms of public and grassroots education .[14]

What distinguishes DSWP is that despite the importance of solidarity movements and other solidarity efforts such as the BDS, Indigenous contexts still require further strategies of transformative resistance that in turn support and connect Indigenous populations rather than just providing rhetorical support. This makes them a powerful trans-force against settler-colonial projects. Also, the movement further aims to radically eliminate all forms of terrorization practised against Indigenous people or the Palestinians within the settler-colonial states whether by the hands of police or citizens, which in its turn seeks to legitimize their existence through torture, imprisonment, dismemberment, murder and extraction of Indigenous people who endanger the state .[15]

A Diné artist named Remy put up images on the walls of Santa Fe in the United States in 2020 in honour of the Palestinians under occupation. The Red Nation participated in a rally in that same region to recognize the suffering of Indigenous peoples, to protest against imperialism, capitalism, and settler-colonialism. The images of Remy caused some controversies, as it showed the Palestinian nurse/paramedic Rouzan al-Najjar, who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on June 1, 2018, and the Palestinian boy Faris Odeh, who was shot dead by the IDF near the Karni crossing in the Gaza Strip on November 8, 2000. First, restrictions by the government are imposed on the kind of Indigenous art allowed. Second, the images showed brutalization of Palestinian children and women by the Israelis. Local Zionists accused the images of being “anti-Semitic” and “blood libel”, an attack to de-legitimize criticisms of Israel .[16]

Certainly, shared trauma and resistance present a connecting bond to enable and strengthen the mutual fights amongst Palestinians and Indigenous peoples against settler-colonialism. The Gaza Flotilla of 2010 for example, which intended to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, saw the participations by Indigenous activists from Canada, such as Robert Lovelace and Larry Commodore, to prove their solidarity with the Palestinians. From another side, Palestinian and Mohawk activists in Canada both alternately supported each other. Mohawk flags were raised at the Palestinian demonstrations. Similarly, the flags of Palestine were put high on Six Nations land. Also, during the Gustafsen Lake standoff, activists including John Boncore took part in furthering Indigenous solidarity in British Columbia. Boncore also joined Rachel Corrie’s parents on a stage in Vancouver in 2003 to signal the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians.[17] In Australia too, the Aboriginal flag was raised at Palestinian and indigenous rallies.

Another example to be put forward is the response to the national broadcaster (CBC) attempts to censure the word Palestine in 2020. Lee Maracle, member of the Stó:lō Nation, author, poet and long-time supporter of the Palestinian cause, issued a statement to condemn the act. She insisted that “Indigenous people in Canada know about erasure as a means of eradicating the plight of indigenous nations for nationhood. Palestine has been in this boat for some time now alongside of us. The manifestation may be different, but erasure (terra nullius) is always the result”. She further denied acknowledging this erasure and rejected attempts to eliminate the Palestinians”.[18]

Indeed, solidarity between the Palestinians and Indigenous peoples across the world has exceeded the basic right of life and simple resistance to threats from settler-colonialism. It has extended to supporting any kind of threat that would emerge for these nations. For instance, the Palestinians Youth Movement (PYM) in the United States have stood with the Great Sioux Nation, Standing Rock Sioux, and other First Nations, to resist the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which passes through South Dakota, North Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa, and cross the Missouri River. DAPL is an opportunity to destroy Indigenous environments and invade land and life by destructing land and water, while depriving Indigenous peoples through a restricted access to resources and denying their sovereign authority.[19] In a similar stance, the PYM also condemned building a Coastal Gaslink pipeline through the land of Wet’suwet’en and asked the Canadian government to respect their commitment to UNDRIP and the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en .[20]

What is Solidarity between the Indigenous?

Some would argue that Palestinians are expected to experience a similar legacy to that of the Native Americans.[21] Indeed, opening up comparative considerations of both experiences is significant to find the intersection of both paths. However, Steven Salaita has pointed out that transnational Indigenous solidarity should not be for the sake of avoiding a similar fate or to avert a defeat under settler-colonialism.[22] This logic confirms the settler-colonial existence. In fact, mutual solidarity should be anchored in the confidence that Indigenous peoples could act as a “model for Palestinian resistance and survival”[23] and in this sense, they could learn tactics and strategies for survival. This would enhance the collective response against settler-colonialism, build a global network of solidarity between Indigenous nations, and expand and strengthen the Palestinian struggle against the settler-colonial state of Israel.

Despite the fact that colonization is a brutal act of invasion that has taken place long time ago, it still continues today through militarised infrastructure and colonial-state practice, for instance in policies such as checkpoints, surveillance, police brutality, displacement, environmental destruction, collective incarceration, stealing water and resources, profanation of burials, and cultural erasure and appropriation.[24] From this point, avoiding tricks and attempts to indirectly control Indigenous peoples, and seeking to invent ways and methods to deceive colonial powers is a way to avoid murder and build up movements of solidarity between various Indigenous nations. It is therefore not surprising that communities who had suffered oppression are also increasingly mobilising towards supporting Palestine.

[1] Mahmoud Darwish, Eleven Planets, [aḥada ʿashara Kawkaban,] 4th ed (Beirut: Dar al-Awda, 1992), p. 45.

[2] Sameeh Masoud, Hoshelaga (Amman: al-Aan, 2021).

[3] Muneer al-Akash, A Palestinian State for the Indians [Dawla Falasṭīniyya lil-Hunūd al-Ḥumr] (Beirut: Riyad ar-Rayes for Books and Publications, 2015).

[4] “Indigenous People in the US and Australia and Solidarity with the Palestinian Case,” al-Mayadeen, 10/6/2018, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[5] Ibid.

[6] “The Red Nation Supports the Liberation of Palestine and BDS – The Liberation of Palestine Represents an Alternative Path for Native Nations,” BDS, 7/9/2019, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[7] “Loubna Qutami, “US Palestine Solidarity: Reviving Original Patterns of Political Engagement,” al-Shabaka, 4/1/2018, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ali Abunimah, “After witnessing Palestine’s apartheid, Indigenous and Women of Color feminists endorse BDS,” The Electronic Intifada, 12/7/2011, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[10] Cecilia Baeza, “Palestinians and Latin America’s Indigenous Peoples: Coexistence, Convergence, Solidarity,” MERIP, 2015, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Melanie K. Yazzie, “Solidarity with Palestine from Diné Bikéyah,” American Quarterly, vol. 67, no. 4 (December 2015), p. 1007.

[14] Ibid., pp. 1012.

[15] Ibid., pp. 1012 - 1013.

[16] “‘Our Resistance Is Global, and So Are We’: The Red Nation-Santa Fe Stands with Palestine,” The Red Nation, 18/2/2020, accessed at 28/2/2021, at:

[17] “Solidarity between Palestinians and Indigenous Activists has Deep Roots,” The Palestine Chronicle, 18/2/2020, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[18] “Indigenous activist Lee Maracle on CBC erasure of Palestine,” Canada Palestine Association, 24/1/2021, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[19] “PYM – USA Stands with Standing Rock. No to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Palestinian Youth Movement, 9/7/2016, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[20] “The Palestinian Youth Movement Stands with Wet’suwet’en!,” Palestinian Youth Movement, 24/2/2020, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[21] For example, see: Ramzy Baroud, “The Native American and the Palestinian: A Spirited Fight for Justice,” Counter Punch, 15/9/2016, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[22] “The Native American model of Palestine’s future,” The Electronic Intifada, 10/3/2016, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

[23] Ibid.

[24] “Indigenous Struggles from Turtle Island to Palestine,” US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, accessed on 28/2/2021, at:

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